Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Questions from Readers (Part 4 of 9)

(Kathy Ide answers questions about self-publishing options.)

If a publisher congratulates you on the acceptance of your manuscript, then asks you to pay part or all of the cost of getting it published, or requires that you purchase a minimum number of books, that’s a subsidy publisher trying to look like a commercial publisher.

If a subsidy publisher is a division of a commercial publishing house and claims that your book will be reviewed by the parent company, don’t take that statement at face value—ask for a list of titles that have gone that route and verify it with the authors.

Here are the subsidy and POD (print on demand) publishers I recommend:
  • Abbott Press, a division of Writer’s Digest (www.abbottpress.com)
  • Ampelos Press (www.writehisanswer.com/ampelos_press.htm)
  • Bethany Press (www.bethanypress.com)
  • CreateSpace, division of Amazon (www.createspace.com)
  • CrossBooks, division of LifeWay/B&H Publishing (www.crossbooks.com)
  • Hit The Mark Publishing (www.hitthemarkpublishing.com)
  • The Honor Network (www.honornet.net)
  • InspiringVoices, a service of Guideposts (www.InspiringVoices.com/Purpose)
  • Lulu (www.lulu.com)
  • Smashwords—e-books only (Smashwords.com)
  • Strong Tower (www.strongtowerpublishing.com)
  • Vision Publishing (www.booksbyvision.com)
In your search for a subsidy publisher, consider the following:

1. In general, you get what you pay for. You can save money if you skip having your manuscript professionally edited and proofread, or if you typeset the manuscript and design the cover yourself. But the final result won’t be nearly as good as if you pay a professional to do those things.

2. When checking out a subsidy publisher, find out all the costs. Does the quote include editing, proofreading, cover design, typesetting, marketing, distribution . . . or are those services extra?

3. Make sure you retain the rights to your work. If your book becomes the exclusive property of the subsidy publisher, you won’t be able to contract with a commercial publisher if one’s interested, or switch subsidy publishers if you aren’t happy with the first one.

(More coming.)

* * * * *

—Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series, is a full-time freelance editor/writing mentor and teacher. She is the founder and director of the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Questions from Readers (Part 3 of 9)

Kathy Ide continues to explain self-publishing terms.

Co-op publishing. The publisher and the author split the publishing costs. This often means that the publisher pays all the costs, but the author is required to purchase a few thousand copies of the book and possibly an expensive marketing package.

Do-it-yourself printing. Most copy shops (like Kinko’s) and office supply stores (like Staples) offer book-binding services. Or the authors purchase binders or report covers and fill them with three-hole-punched sheets of paper. If they use clear-front covers, the authors can design an attractive cover page using either a color printer or specialty paper.

Offset vs. Print-on-demand. Traditional mainstream publishers use offset presses to print large quantities of books (at least a few thousand). Smaller independent publishers and subsidy publishers often use Print-on-Demand (POD). With POD, books are printed only when they’re ordered, so the publisher doesn’t keep copies in a warehouse.

E-book publishing. An e-book publisher can take a Word or PDF file, design an electronic cover for it, format it to look like a book on screen, and convert it to Amazon’s mobi format (for Kindle), and/or epub (which can be read on any e-reader other than the Kindle). Some subsidy publishers offer both print and e-book options; others do only one or the other.

DIY electronic publishing. You can convert your Word or WordPerfect file to a PDF document (which can be read using Adobe Acrobat, so anyone with a computer could read it) and sell it on your website, blog, and e-newsletter.

Independent publishing is one of the newer terms for self-publishing.

* * * * *

—Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series, is a full-time freelance editor/writing mentor and teacher. She is the founder and director of the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Questions from Readers (Part 2 of 9)

Several people have asked me about self-publishing. One of the problems today is that there are so many terms. Kathy Ide answers questions on this topic.

There are many options when it comes to self-publishing a book. Which one you choose depends on your goals, needs, and available funds.

Vanity Press. This is an older term that’s meant derisively. They print and bind books at the author’s expense. Costs include the publisher’s profit and overhead, so vanity publishing is usually quite expensive. Vanity publishers don’t screen for quality. They provide no editing, marketing, warehousing, or promotional services.

Subsidy Publisher. The publisher takes payment from the author to cover part or all of the costs of printing and binding a book, often offering additional services such as editing, proofreading, typesetting, cover design, distribution, warehousing, and some marketing at added cost. The completed books are the property of the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession until sold.

Many subsidy publishers don’t screen submissions (except perhaps to exclude pornography or hate literature) although Christian companies may only do books with a biblical worldview. The author is paid a royalty based on sales. The publisher may have an exclusive claim on the book for a set period.

Self-publishing. The author undertakes the entire cost of publication and all marketing, distribution, and storage. Since the author can put every aspect of the process out for bid to different companies, rather than accepting a preset package of services, self-publishing can be more cost effective than vanity or subsidy publishing and can result in a higher-quality product. The completed books are the writer’s sole property, and the writer keeps 100 percent of sales proceeds.

(See the next blog.)

* * * * *

—Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series, is a full-time freelance editor/writing mentor and teacher. She is the founder and director of the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Questions from Readers (Part 1 of 9)

For this series, I’ve asked Kathy Ide to respond. (Cec)

* * * * *
What Is Hybrid Publishing? 

The newest model of publishing to have emerged is hybrid publishing, a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Hybrid publishing is difficult to define because there are many possible variations. It’s neither self-publishing nor traditional publishing, but it can be any combination of the two.

Here are examples of hybrid publishing:

* An author whose career started with traditionally published books decides to try self-publishing. From there, the author publishes some books traditionally and self-publishes others.

* An author who has self-published several books is picked up by a traditional publisher.

* An author might get a traditional book deal for print publishing but continue to self-publish e-books, retaining all digital rights and royalties. Publishers benefit from hybrid publishing because they can sign authors who have a fan base with their self-published books. That means a lower-risk investment for publishers.

When authors self-publish, they earn a larger percentage of royalties. Authors who have already published traditionally are now self-publishing books, based on their reputation, and receive much larger royalties than on traditionally published books.

Some literary agents (including mine) are hybrid because the authors are being published under the agent’s imprint. However, the agencies don’t have an effective distribution channel. The quality of their books excel because they understand publishing standards. In short, in hybrid publishing the author pays to publish. That means the author receives a higher royalty, and someone else publishes the book.

* * * * *

—Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series, is a full-time freelance editor/writing mentor and teacher. She is the founder and director of the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Questions from Readers

Writing about Voice (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third blog to answer Barbara Higby’s question about voice. Barbara said that after she “reread the manuscript, I thought, Who wrote this? It wasn’t me.”

Here’s another way of answering the question, and I assume it’s not what Barbara meant.

Sometimes we write and it doesn’t seem unusual to us. In fact, we may slog along, wondering if we can ever get something good on paper. Later, we read it over and a sentence or a paragraph jumps out at us and we say, “This is good. Did I really write this?”

This doesn’t happen to me often, but I’m delighted when it does. The labor we put into the creation seems to have no direct relationship to the quality of the writing. Now and then we get “in the flow” and don’t realize it’s unusual. We write. Only later can we see those passages that amaze us.

This is different from being satisfied with what we wrote—and too many writers are satisfied with what they put on the screen because they don’t know how bad they are.

This self-amazement comes after we know the difference between good writing and amateurism.

Keep writing. And keep surprising yourself.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Questions from Readers

Writing about Voice (Part 2 of 3)

Barbara Higby asked, “Who wrote this?” when she read one of her edited pieces in print.

Sorry, Barbara, but it happens all the time. So here are a few thoughts.

First, apparently the editor didn’t send the piece to you before printing it, so there’s nothing you can do about it. This happens to many of us. You get credit and money for the piece, but there’s little ownership of the edited copy. As the cliché says, “Been there, done that,” and many of us have.

Second, most publishers return the manuscript to you after it’s edited and before it’s published. You can accept or dispute any changes. Years ago, my writer-friend Jim Watkins and I were talking about our books being edited. “If it sounds like me, I let the changes go.” I agreed.

I discuss only changes that sound unlike you or distort the point. I used the word discuss intentionally. It’s a dialog between you and the editor. And most editors are open to have you disagree.

Several times I’ve had fine editors. When we agree, they send the book manuscripts to copyeditors—which is a kind of entry position into publishing. They check the grammar, punctuation, and other minor details.

In recent years, three times I’ve had zealous copyeditors revise my manuscript so badly, I complained to the editor. The worst was the woman who changed Psalm 5 to Psalms 5. (It’s the book of Psalms, but number 5 is only one psalm). Another one got rid of every contraction, and I read stilted prose. In each case, the editor agreed and a new copyeditor has taken over.

Barbara, I’m sorry your publisher didn’t solicit your input. I suggest you not try that publisher again or wait until your new article is accepted and say, kindly, “On my previous article, the copyeditor changed my voice so much, I didn’t recognize myself.” Ask the editor to let you read it before publication to make sure it’s still your voice. (If she responds with a no-answer, you either agree to their policy or tell her you wish to withdraw your manuscript. If you take the second approach, I hope you’ll realize that you’ll never sell to them again.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Questions from Readers

Writing about Voice (Part 1 of 3)

Barbara Higby asked about voice. She said that after she reread the manuscript, “I thought, Who wrote this? It wasn’t me.” I have three blog posts to answer this.

First, let’s start with what we mean by a writer’s voice. It’s who you are—it sounds like you—the true you.

Years ago Thomas Nelson hired me to help a doctor of pharmacology with his 750-page book. After I heard 200 pages I said, “I’ve met you and know you. This sounds like something you would write for your Harvard professor.”

“How did you know I went to Harvard?”

I didn’t, but I knew it didn’t sound like him. We tossed out the manuscript, started over, and wrote seven successful books from the material in his single manuscript.

It works like this: Who you are as a writer needs to show on the page. If you try to sound like somebody else, discerning readers will figure it out. They may not identify it, but they’ll know something is false.

The more honest you are, the stronger your voice. Who you are is all you have to offer. But if you offer who you are, that’s enough.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Farce of Fake Amazon Bestsellers

This is used by permission from Rob Eagar’s blog, The Wildfire Marketing Executive Minute, March 23, 2016.

* * * * *

There’s a strange marketing trend among authors that is leading many people astray. It’s a sneaky little trick that some authors like to play on unsuspecting listeners. You may have heard it before. An author will say, “My book is a #1 bestseller on Amazon!” Their comment is meant to make you think their book is selling like hotcakes. But, if you look further, they really mean their book was temporarily #1 on an abstract bestseller list that Amazon makes up. Amazon has hundreds of ambiguous book categories, such as:

• Occupational & Organizational Popular Psychology
• Children’s Pig Books
• Teen & Young Adult Dystopian Fiction
• Christian Women’s Issues
• Quick & Easy Cooking
• Movie Biographies
• Credit Ratings & Repair

A book that is #1 on these lists isn’t anywhere close to the actual copies sold of the true #1 bestseller on Amazon. Secondly, Amazon only accounts for approximately 30 – 50% of total book sales in America, depending on the genre and format of the book.

Yes, it’s true that Amazon sells more books than any other retailer in America. But, telling someone you’re an Amazon bestseller is like telling someone you’re the fastest runner in your office building or church congregation. It’s not an official statistic and is based on theoretical data that isn’t reliable.

In addition, Amazon updates each book’s sales ranking every hour. Therefore, a book that is #1 today doesn’t mean it will be #1 tomorrow. Heck, it may not be #1 by the time you finish reading this article. The best judge of a legitimate bestselling book is the ability to sell thousands of copies consistently over a period of several days and weeks.

In reality, there are only a handful of national bestseller lists. These lists are based on weekly sales data captured from a wide variety of major retail bookstores across America (both online and offline). The most highly regarded lists include the following:

The New York Times
USA Today
Publishers Weekly
Wall Street Journal

So, the next time you hear an author say, “My book is a bestseller on Amazon!” don’t fall for their hype. Politely question their claim by asking, “Oh really, is your book also on the New York Times, USA Today, PW, or Wall Street Journal bestseller lists?” If not, they’re just trying to sell you a load of fiction.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Questions from Readers

Cheri Fields asks about adding emotional elements to historical writing. “What is allowable?” (I assume she refers to nonfiction.)

Authorities quote Truman Capote’s 1965 book, In Cold Blood, as the catalyst that changed nonfiction techniques. (Others were already doing it, but he made it popular.) After that, we began to use terms like narrative nonfiction and creative nonfiction. Some use the pejorative term faction.

Regardless of the term, today you can tell a true story that reads like fiction. You need to play close attention to the structure and style of novels to make it compelling.

Previously, you were restricted to who, what, when, where, and how. You couldn’t have your characters say anything you couldn’t prove as being literally true.

The newer style says you’re allowed to invent dialog and add color—providing that they fit within the scope of the true account. By color, I mean describing things that you can rightly assume were present at that time, such as the go pedal on a Model A Ford or the size of the Philco 41-221 radio manufactured in 1941.

It’s easier for me to show this by example. I wrote With Byrd at the Bottom of the World for Norman Vaughan about the 1928–1930 historic trip of Admiral Byrd at the South Pole.

The events started in 1927, and Norman and I wrote the book in 1990. Do you think Norman remembered the exact words Byrd and others spoke? In one place, we wrote about his being in fear of his life during the six months of total darkness when a member of the party went berserk and threatened to kill him. Sixty years later, he couldn’t be totally certain of his emotions, but he gave me the best responses he could.

As I worked with Norman and probed his memories, he could relate only the impression he carried in 1990 of what happened then. Although we didn’t say it, I could easily have made statements such as, “As I remember.”

We are so used to reading nonfiction with color added, that it’s acceptable as long as it stays as close to the truth as possible.